Testing Employees for COVID-19 - What You Need to Know


States have all officially begun phasing out of COVID-19 stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. As businesses begin welcoming back employees, they are faced with new challenges regarding the safety of workers. Many wonder where the limitations are regarding testing and asking employees about symptoms and risk factors.

On April 23, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and coronavirus. The guidance clarified that employers may screen employees for COVID-19. However, any mandatory medical test must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Here are some key considerations you need to know when testing employees for COVID-19.  

Implementing a Testing Policy 

As your workplace adjusts to the post-COVID-19 “new normal,” testing your employees may seem like the answer to keeping your workplace safe. But, implementing testing procedures is a lot easier said than done. 

There is a lot to consider if you require tests to be performed prior to an employee’s return. Begin with finding the test that is right for you and your team. Not all tests are created equal, some are invasive and others have long waiting periods. And let’s not forget that tests cannot be found everywhere, so your location and test availability are key factors in selecting a test.

Once you have established the testing procedures you are comfortable with, be sure to review your company handbook and reevaluate policies that may need to be updated to remain in compliance or create new ones as needed.

COVID-19 Testing Alternatives 

Unlike large companies, SMBs might struggle to come across tests. Consider these alternatives methods: 

Checking Temperatures

Let’s first note that the absence of fever doesn’t mean the absence of the virus, and conversely, just because an employee’s temperature is higher does not immediately indicate they have the virus. If you choose to take this route make sure that the test is performed by someone with proper training, personal protective equipment, a no-touch thermometer, and an understanding of confidentiality considerations. A nonmedical professional can take temperatures and help keep the workplace safe.

Screen for Symptoms 

If you are on the fence about requiring an actual test or testing temperatures consider screen for symptoms. This is a noninvasive way to protect you, your employees, and your workplace. Ask them to be honest with you about how they are feeling and whether they or anyone they’ve been around have felt symptoms of the virus. This can be easily executed with a weekly or daily survey or questionnaire.


Using your HCM software you can create self-certification forms that employees must certify prior to each shift. This is an easy way to automatically have employees answer whether they are or someone they know has tested positive or is showing symptoms.  

Additional Testing Considerations 

Before COVID-19 employers were restricted on any interaction regarding an employee’s health. Since this pandemic is considered a “direct threat” to workplace safety, different rules apply and testing employees is, in fact, legal but there are still a few things you should consider such as: 

  • Testing for COVID-19 must be done in a nondiscriminatory manner. If you test one employee, you test them all. 
  • Test results must be kept confidential in accordance with the ADA’s requirements.
  • If you are requiring all employees to be tested there is an obligation under wage and hour laws to pay employees for their time. 
  • Consider that if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 they must have one or two subsequent negative tests before returning to work. 

Tags: Business 101

Leave a Comment